Staying hydrated is a battle we all face on a daily basis but, when you work out, it is more important than ever to remain hydrated however, there is a demon that lurks… … advertising tells us that when we work out, our bodies are working harder and that in order to aid its recovery, energy drinks, laden with sugar, sweeteners and sometimes colouring too, are the best thing for us. There are some claims that they also hydrate us quicker too.
The hard facts
The body is made up of 60% water, with the brain, the organ that controls everything we do, is composed of 75 to 80% water. Dehydration can happen quickly, with mild dehydration showing within a few hours of us not drinking, from headaches, slight dizziness and just not feeling ourselves.
This is bad enough on any given day but, if you are an athlete or work out on a regular basis, not staying hydrated to a high standard will mean not only all these symptoms, but poor performance too. There is nothing that can aid or boost the speed of the body taking up hydration in the body; remaining hydrated, drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise is the way forward.
But, there are some common hydration mistakes that we can all fall into…
· Assuming our body will tell us when we need hydration
Which, to a certain extent, is true BUT the indication of dehydration – thirst – will only be given when you in the first stages of mild hydration. Although it may not seem a lot, but when the body has lost around 2% of hydration it will create the sensation of thirst.
But, when you also think that this dehydration process is ongoing, by the time you get round to drinking water, you will have lost even more hydration. Also, the amount you sweat and process during a workout is replaced by taking on board more than you have expended.
There is a constant drain on your hydration levels and if you are not replacing it fast enough, then you could still be heading down the avenue of dehydration. You need water for joints, as well as muscles.
Key hydration take away – don’t get dehydrated in the first place. Make sure you are hydrated before you start working out and don’t wait for your body to tell you that it is thirsty.
· Not understanding or taking on enough fluid – and NOT monitoring it
If you work out on a regular basis, how do you know if you drinking enough fluid? Everyone’s needs are different but generally speaking, for every hour that you work out, you should take on board between 15 to 20 fluid ounces of water AND an additional glass within half an hour of your work out finishing.
However, there are variables that affect how much you should drink:
- Working out in a hot place will increase your need hydration
- If you are pregnant, you will also need to be more aware of your fluid intake
- Certain medications will also have an effect on hydration levels; diuretics are a type of medication that cause the body to dump excess fluid. Working out when taking such medication will also mean that hydration levels can be under pressure.
There are two ways to monitor your fluid intake:
- Weigh yourself before exercising and then again when you have finished. If you have lost more than 2lbs in body weight you have not drunk enough water before nor during the workout. If your weight has fallen, drink 2 and a half glasses of water (around half a pint each time) within an hour or so of working out. Take care not to ‘drown’ yourself in excessive water, a situation known as water intoxication. This is where the body effectively becomes swamps, with the organs not being able to filter and process the fluid causing it to shut down.
- Taking note of your urine colour is the other way to check your hydration level. It should be no more than a clear, light yellow colour; any darker, and it is a sign of dehydration. Again, drink water until your urine lightens in colour but not in one big deluge of water!
Water can be good enough but…
In the main, exercising in a normal climate for less than 90 minutes at a time will be enhanced by drinking water but, there are times when the body needs more than plain water. Excessive sweating, hard work out in which muscles and joint are under extreme pressure, and fluid containing additional extras may be needed.
We lose sodium when we exercise, in the form of salty sweat and thus, when we drink water, it may not be helping us to replace this sodium and other minerals and salts quick enough. However, if you are at a point where you are exercising in this way, the likelihood is you will have a whole team of people you can draw on for advice and so on.